Why are we so upset? After all, there are relatively few people in federal prison just for marijuana possession.

May 26, 2013
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That’s the mantra we hear over and over from the apologists for bad policy like Kevin Sabet and Keith Humphreys.

Of course, this argument has so many holes in it you could drive a SWAT team through it.

  • Most marijuana cases are handled at the city or state level, not federal local level, so federal prison isn’t relevant [nor is state].
  • Possession is an extremely imprecise term. If you possess enough so you don’t have to go to a criminal dealer every week, you’re considered a criminal dealer yourself, and if the small amount you posses happens to have roots attached to it, you’re a kingpin.
  • The larger argument that this statement is part of (the status quo just needs some tweaking) assumes that the way to fix a bad law is to simply convince authorities to enforce it less stringently, which is bad policy and ends up turning our justice system into some kind of nationally sanctioned Russian roulette. (Who gets caught and has their life ruined and who gets to be President?)

Additionally, you don’t have to go to jail to have your life ruined, as thousands upon thousands can attest.

Harmandeep Singh Boparai has an outstanding article: America: What’s more harmful, pot use or incarceration? in the Alaska Dispatch.

In it, he talks about lots of real life people where a simple arrest with no jail time for marijuana possession has callously and thoughtlessly ruined lives.

Definitely worth reading. Preferably by those who mindlessly chant the title to this blog post.

A couple of days ago, I tweeted the following:

.@RafaelONDCP @ONDCP @KevinSabet What do you propose for majority of non-problematic marijuana users? Arrest? Mandatory treatment? Other?

Naturally, I got no response.

And this is one of the most glaring problems with the third-way-ers. Sure, the notion of treatment instead of jail for those who need treatment is a good one. But that doesn’t let you off the hook for the vast majority who don’t need treatment and who are damaged by arrest more than the drug use.

You seem to want us to believe that your policy talents are so limited that you are incapable of crafting policy and law that is narrowly tailored.

Well, then, step aside and let some people take over who can.

Note: Just as a reminder, this post is only talking about the demand side. The third-way-ers also have a huge blind spot when it comes to the supply-side devastation we face throughout the world.

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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